How the NAACP is using software to inspire black voters in this midterm election

Any policy can be local, as the old saying goes. But power is not always. At least not yet.

That’s the overall inspiration behind a growing collaboration piloted this midterm cycle between the NAACP and Esri, a geographic information systems (GIS) software company that provides mapping tools to global businesses, governments, and to NGOs.

It’s about getting good information into the hands of the people who need it most.

“We are a 113-year-old policy advocacy organization,” Jamal R. Watkins, senior vice president of strategy and advancement for the NAACP, told raceAhead. Their mission is to find increasingly effective ways to help volunteers and field advocates understand the specific issues that have an urgent impact on the communities they care about. “Think of this as a franchise model… hyper-local, with a primary focus on racial equity through policy advocacy. And we do that by maximizing civic engagement.

And that’s where the cards come in.

“Maps help enrich the story of circumstances on the ground,” says Clinton Johnson, who leads Esri’s racial equity and social justice team, and who founded and directs the NorthStar of GIS, an organization community that focuses on racial justice and works to advance Black equity and belonging on the ground. Mapping a political strategy is nothing new, he says. But looking at the physical world through a racial justice analysis is. “What policy interventions would emerge from a more comprehensive picture of underserved black communities? »

The partnership began earlier this year and builds on an “aha” moment that occurred during the NAACP’s push in 2020 for a full census count, says Watkins. The tracking tools they used were invaluable. “All of this connectivity has been helpful for our community members to be able to say in real time, ‘I see in my neighborhood, 30% of the population that should be counted has been counted, we have more to do,'” did he declare. said. Then COVID made the use case even clearer. “The maps were on our faces on a daily basis, literally tracking COVID rates. So how do we use this technology to track and connect the dots on things that can provide us with more solutions? »

It’s about getting the information into the hands of the people who live there, he says. “Having a map allows our activists and community leaders to say, wait a minute, my neighborhood is behind in immunization rates,” he says. Then you map school reopenings and school funding. So you have the receipts to have a better political conversation. “You can ask, ‘Does my school get the same funding as other communities?’ and the maps can tell you that,” says Watkins. “And if the answer is no, you can say, ‘Hey, school board, hey, mayor, something’s wrong here because the dollars that are flowing into this other neighborhood to prepare these schools for reopening aren’t going to these schools in my neighborhood or neighborhoods that are close to my heart.

ESRI is a compelling private company with a broad user base – everything from large retailers seeking to identify the next successful location to governments to researchers monitoring climate change. But the company’s openness to investing so much in stocks comes from the top.

“We look at issues that are social or environmental in nature and try to incorporate some of the parameters of that kind of thinking into the core tools,” Esri co-founder and CEO Jack Dangermond told Alan Murray and I. on the Direction Next podcast. “So when our users buy these tools, they usually end up doing a lot more than their core mission… They’re doing things more efficiently, they’re doing things more sustainably.”

When the mission is democracy, efficiency matters.

For Friday, I’ll be back with Johnson and Watkins to get a report on how the election work went and the progress of some of their other projects, like a national election center.

More reasons to hope, below.

Ellen McGirt
[email protected]

This edition of raceAhead was edited by Ashley Sylla.


Here’s what voters are most concerned about:

  • Black voters are more motivated to vote this year, especially those over 50 who support President Biden. Top issues include inflation, healthcare, but also voting rights and access, gun violence and policing according to a poll via a collaboration between leGrio and KFF.
  • While Hispanic voters have been increasingly drawn to Republican candidates in recent years, most point to a Democratic leaning towards House district races. Latinx turnout tends to lag behind other groups in midterm elections, find the Pew Research Center. For registered Latinx voters, the economy is their number one issue, followed by health care, education, violent crime, and gun policy.
  • The Asian American/Pacific Islander community is a large and diverse group, and recent advances in the polls have helped paint a better picture of voter sentiment. According the 2022 Asian American voter survey, AAPI voters prefer Democratic control of Congress 54% to 27%, with the exception of Vietnamese voters, who lean Republican 40% to 35%. The economy and health care are front and center, along with gun control and environmental protection. “Other surveys, including from the Pew Research Center, show that Asian American voters tend to be the most supportive of abortion rights,” says Karthick Ramakrishnan, professor of public policy at the University of California. at Riverside.
  • Indigenous voters have new political power and agency. The highest Indigenous voter turnout in history occurred in 2020, leading to legislative breakthroughs in tentpole issues like education and tuition waiver reform, health care and community safety, and the environment. They represent too — there are more than 140 Indigenous candidates on state and national ballots in 2022, according to Indian country today. But as Native American voters helped deliver Arizona to Biden in 2020, their rights and access have been attacked since.

First Dissent of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, in which she was joined by Judge Sotomayor, involves the appeal of a petitioner from Ohio’s death row, which the Supreme Court has refused to hear. Petitioner Davel Chinn was convicted of murder in a robbery in 1989; Chinn claims the state withheld evidence against him. She sided with Chin. “It is undisputed that during the capital trial of petitioner Davel Chinn, the state suppressed exculpatory evidence indicating that key state witness Marvin Washington had an intellectual disability that could have affected the ability of Washington to remember, perceive fact from fiction, and testify accurately,” she wrote. Under a Supreme Court ruling called Brady v. Maryland373 US 83 (1963) this may be considered a violation of due process. His the dissent is there (scroll down to find it).
CBS News

A leading line of “critical race theory” backfires. Earlier this year, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin set up an email “report line” for parents of school-aged children to report “any instance where they feel their basic human rights are violated.” violated” or when schools engage in “inherently conflicting practices”. The records collected by the governor have just been made public by his office to settle a lawsuit for disclosure of records filed by 13 media organizations. According to the analysis carried out by USA today, most emails were repeat missives from about three dozen email addresses, and CRT was not a priority. “I explained to him that I was going to use this whistleblower line to solve real problems, not red herrings,” said Kandise Lucas, a special education advocate who represented nearly half of the e -mails discovered in the settlement.
USA today

Anti-trans legislation is wavering in Ohio. This fall, Brendan Shea, member of the State of Ohio Board of Education submitted a proposal to voters who had the unique virtue of surpassing others Over 155 anti-trans gender bills floating around state legislatures. Where other bills had a more surgical purpose, Shea’s proposal contains all despicable anti-transgender discussion topic currently circulating. If adopted, trans students would be banned from any washroom, sports, parents, etc. It took 24 hours for supporters of trans children to organize and mobilize, says Erin Reed, queer legislative researcher and transgender rights activist, writing in Harper’s Bazaar. “[D]Dozens of former and current transgender students, teachers, and parents testified to close the hearing and passionately pleaded with personal anecdotes to give current trans students their dignity,” Reed reports. The personal testimony was effective, and the measure was sent back to committee, signaling a “no, at least for now” decision. Click for great tips for defenders and allies.
Harper’s Bazaar

Farewell words

“We live in a world that respects power above all else. Power, intelligently directed, can lead to more freedom. Carelessly directed, it can be a terrible and destructive force.

Mary McLeod Bethune

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